Funds Needed To Develop CPI Quality Control System

GGD-83-32: Published: Apr 1, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 1, 1983.

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GAO reviewed the manner by which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects and processes data for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and pointed out the need for better controls over the quality of that data.

GAO found no evidence that the reliability of the national CPI has been compromised by bad data, although it did identify shortcomings in the BLS control mechanism that could permit quality problems to go undetected or uncorrected. GAO noted that BLS procedures for collecting and processing CPI data provide a good base for reliable information. However, without a system that allows management to assess data quality and identify any trouble spots, there is no guarantee that the procedures are being effectively implemented. The most significant example of this inadequate control is the BLS Quality Assurance Program, which was intended to provide BLS headquarters with information on the type and extent of errors occurring in the data collection process. That program has fallen far short as an effective control mechanism. BLS knows that its controls over CPI data quality are inadequate and has asked for funds that would allow it to design a quality control system in its budget submission for fiscal year 1983. Those funds, however, were deleted from the President's budget.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should approve funding requests to design a quality control system for the CPI.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct BLS to assess all aspects of the CPI program to identify ways it can better ensure CPI data accuracy, within the current budget environment, until a formal quality control system is implemented, and attach appropriate warnings to the local area CPI's so users are aware of BLS concerns about the reliability of those indexes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor


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